Zootopia: Utopia and Dystopia in the Zoological Garden

EARTH PERFECT? NATURE, UTOPIA, AND THE GARDEN, Annette Giesecke and Naomi Jacobs, eds., May 2012

Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-038

18 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2011 Last revised: 27 Jun 2013

Irus Braverman

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: November 30, 2011

Abstract

In this essay I coin the term 'zootopia' to express the utopian and the dystopian impulses at work at the zoo and to allude to their tightly intertwined nature. The essay's first section explores zootopia as a paradise, a place where people live in harmony with a romanticized nature. Simultaneously, zootopia is also a rational project that involves careful planning and detailed control over both animals and their habitat. Finally, the zoo is a theme park: a garden for human entertainment and consumption. In order to survive, the zoo must sell tickets, animal figurines and sponsorships, crackers for feeding the elephants, giraffe art, and the like. Ultimately, the zoo's presentation of nature is utopian, in the sense that it confirms current ideals and makes room for hope about nature's future. However, the awe and amusement that this visitor experiences at the utopian zoo are often overlaid with the fear and guilt implied by the dystopian message that is also present in this space.

Keywords: anthrozoology, zootopia, utopia and dystopia, zoo gardens, animal studies, animal geographies, consumption

Suggested Citation

Braverman, Irus, Zootopia: Utopia and Dystopia in the Zoological Garden (November 30, 2011). EARTH PERFECT? NATURE, UTOPIA, AND THE GARDEN, Annette Giesecke and Naomi Jacobs, eds., May 2012 ; Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012-038. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1956716

Irus Braverman (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-645-3030 (Phone)
716-645-2064 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~irusb/

Paper statistics

Downloads
162
Rank
151,150
Abstract Views
1,700